Living Black History: How Reimagining the African-American Past Can Remake America's Racial Future

Living Black History: How Reimagining the African-American Past Can Remake America's Racial Future

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by Manning Marable

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A superstar scholar reinterprets the historical significance of key figures in African-American history reveals their enduring relevance for a new generation.See more details below


A superstar scholar reinterprets the historical significance of key figures in African-American history reveals their enduring relevance for a new generation.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this sharp, savvy collection, several pieces of which began as W.E.B. Du Bois lectures at Harvard in 2004, Columbia University scholar Marable (The Autobiography of Medgar Evers) declares that "being true to black history... means accepting and interpreting its totality." Living black history, Marable posits, requires "reconstruct[ing] America's memory about itself" through projects that give voice to the voiceless. Marable takes a historian's pleasure in reproaching those (like Kweisi Mfume and Henry Louis Gates Jr.) who discount Du Bois's commitment to radicalism. He similarly admonishes those, from the black middle class or hip-hop "Malcolmologists," who seize on Malcolm X's resistance without recognizing-as Marable does in dissecting Alex Haley's unreliable Autobiography and criticizing the Shabazz family-Malcolm X's unquenched, pan-Africanist voice. An essay on lawyer Robert Carter, who helped win Brown v. Board of Education, prompts the author's reflection on gains blacks have made in access to educational institutions, and also his lament that Brown has not helped the working class or the poor. But Marable offers no targeted solution for African-American uplift. Rather, given his socialist leanings-less articulated here than in other works-he supports cross-racial and class-based efforts to fight structural racism. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Adding two essays to the three he delivered at the 2004 W.E.B. Du Bois Lectures at Harvard University, the prolific Marable (African American studies, Columbia Univ.; The Great Wells of Democracy: The Meaning of Race in American Life) seeks a civic conversation to expose the destructive process of racialization in historical context. Focusing on the life work of activist scholar W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963), black Muslim spokesman Malcolm X (1925-65), and NAACP desegregation strategist and federal judge Robert L. Carter (b. 1917), he reviews differing approaches to overthrowing Jim Crow's physical and psychological oppression. The spirit and strategies of such earlier struggles, he suggests, offer guidance for African Americans and all other Americans in today's and tomorrow's pressing battles against racism of every stripe and global apartheid. True history points, he insists, to the continuing quest for racial justice and genuine democracy. Ever provocative, Marable has again offered a moving vision of America's past, present, and future. For collections on U.S. and black history, society, and politics.-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Wide-ranging essay on the challenges African-Americans face in shaping a history to call their own. Marable (The Great Wells of Democracy, 2003) argues that that very history has been altered, co-opted and otherwise ill served by a variety of agents. On one hand, for instance, there are well-meaning liberals who "are unwilling or unable to question the dispossession of wealth from African Americans in the form of unpaid labor exploitation"; on the other are the heirs of Malcolm X and C.L.R. James, who, for one reason or another, have failed to put papers and other archival materials in order, so that a trove of Malcolm's documents have fallen into unscholarly hands merely because someone neglected to pay storage-locker rent. Marable throws up great walls of language: "Any conceptual break from the rigid orthodoxies of global apartheid and U.S. structural racism . . . forces upon us the necessities to delegitimize all existing privileged systems of racial hierarchies and categories, and simultaneously to construct a new social paradigm." Break a paradigm, make a paradigm: A real-world example or two would benefit the mystified reader, who may still be wondering whether confronting evidence of the racist past in the form of street names and the like is not to be preferred to sweeping that evidence away, the better to soothe modern sensitivities. In his opening essay, Marable seems undecided on the point, but he is far more confident when writing of such things as the curious process by which The Autobiography of Malcolm X came to be (Malcolm and Alex Haley, his as-told-to writer, did not agree on much) and the need to address structural racism and classism lest we develop into "an unequal,two-tiered, uncivil American society" in which African-Americans do not have much voice-or about what we have now. Useful arguments with some interesting turns: What would have happened if the promise of 40 acres and a mule had been kept?

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